A.H.A.: Dietary changes may reduce triglycerides

by Eric Schroeder
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DALLAS — Dietary and lifestyle changes, such as substituting healthy, unsaturated dietary fats for saturated ones, engaging in physical activity and losing weight may decrease triglycerides by 20% to 50%, according to a new scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Triglycerides are a type of blood fat that is associated with heart, blood vessel and other diseases.

The statement, which was published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, examined research from more than 500 international studies during the past 30 years.

“The good news is that high triglycerides can, in large part, be reduced through major lifestyle changes,” said Michael Miller, M.D., chair of the statement committee and professor of medicine in epidemiology and public health and director of the Center for Preventive Cardiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore. “In contrast to cholesterol, where lifestyle measures are important but may not be the solution, high triglycerides are often quite responsive to lifestyle measures that include weight loss if overweight, changes in diet and regular physical activity.”

In its scientific statement, the A.H.A. recommended several dietary changes for individuals outside the normal range of triglycerides, including limiting added sugar to less than 5% to 10% of calories consumed, cutting fructose from both processed foods and naturally occurring foods to less than 50 to 100 grams per day, limiting saturated foods to less than 7% of total calories, reducing trans fat to less than 1% of total calories, and reducing alcohol, especially if triglyceride levels are higher or greater than 500 mg/dL.

The A.H.A. also encouraged individuals with triglyceride levels in the borderline to high range (150 to 199 mg/dL) to incorporate physical activities of at least moderate intensity for at least 150 minutes per week. These activities, such as brisk walking, may contribute an additional 20% to 30% triglyceride-lowering effect, the A.H.A. said.

“Triglycerides are an important barometer of metabolic health,” said Neil J. Stone, M.D., co-chair of the statement and professor of medicine in the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago. “When the clinician sees an elevated triglyceride level, there needs to be an important conversation about risk factors and the need to eat less, eat smarter, and to move more on a daily basis to improve triglycerides and the metabolic profile.”

Nearly one-third of adults have elevated triglyceride levels in the United States, the A.H.A. said.

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